Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

The Cisco Visual Networking Index predicts that there will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015. And according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research company, more United States consumers will access the Internet on mobile devices than computers by 2015.  That means that by 2015, lawyers whose information cannot be easily found and viewed on a mobile device may be left behind.

In September of 2011, Google released a statement informing website owners that mobile website optimization would affect their keyword quality, thus impacting their Adwords performance. Google also claimed that most  users will not revisit a website from their phone if they had trouble doing so the first time. If your target audience is likely to search on a smartphone or tablet and cannot find your law firm site using the mobile search engine, or your site provides a poor mobile user experience, you risk losing potential clients and referrals.

Does that mean your firm needs a mobile version of its website? If you don’t already have one, now might be the time to look into it.

Designing a Mobile Friendly Website

As with any other marketing initiative your firm considers, the first thing you want to explore is how your target audience uses mobile devices. Are your potential clients or referral sources likely to use a mobile device to search for you or for information that might be contained on your website? If so, what is it that they are searching for? Is it the same or different than what they would be searching for on their desktop or laptop computer? What are your potential clients likely to use their mobile devices for? Is that something the firm’s website provides? These answers will help you determine what should be included in your firm’s mobile site.

Next, think about what the experience of viewing a regular website on a mobile device is like:

  • Type is small
  • Load time is long
  • Flash does not play
  • Navigation is difficult
  • Buttons are too small to click on with a thumb
  • You cannot access sub-menus (the menus that pop up when you roll your mouse over the main navigation point)

To take advantage of all of those potential clients using mobile devices for search, your site must be mobile friendly: it must be simple, clean, easy to navigate and load quickly.

You will also want to look at the bounce rate and conversion rate for your site. Do smartphone and tablet users quickly exit your site? Are there fewer conversions (visitors that take action on your site, whether that is downloading free information, sending an inquiry or calling for a consultation) when your site is being viewed on a mobile device? These are the issues that need to be a part of your design decision-making process.

Some additional tips for making the mobile site work for your visitors include:

  • Edit – include the key information your visitors need on the go, but not everything; keep the number of pages down and the layout simple
  • Keep branding consistent with your main site – include your logo and ensure colors remain consistent
  • Don’t use pop-ups
  • Limit the amount of text entry required – use drop-down menus and checklists where possible

Mobile Friendly Website Options

For some law firms, optimizing their site for mobile users may require a complete redesign. Alternatively, lawyers can create a mobile optimized site that can be added to their existing site. When someone accesses your site through a smartphone or tablet, they will be automatically redirected to the mobile site. In these instances, it is always still a good idea to give users the option to click through to the full site with all of your content.

Some website and blog platforms such as WordPress have available plug-ins or add-ons that will display a the proper version of your site with almost no work on your part, whether the web visitor is using a desktop computer, smartphone or tablet. But if you’re using a CSS platform and want to do it yourself, check out this step by step article on how to optimize your site for mobile.

Finally, while some lawyers have been considering developing apps for their law firms to accommodate smartphone and tablet users, I don’t see much utility for those apps, unless you’re talking about an app that gives existing clients access to a secure client portal to get information on their individual case. It is unlikely that potential clients or referral sources will install a law firm app unless there is something really unique that they can use on a daily or at least weekly basis. Most people use apps for fun or to make their lives easier. If your app doesn’t qualify, just focus on making your site mobile friendly instead.

(photo: Close up of man using mobile smart phone isolated on white background image from Shutterstock)

  • https://plus.google.com/117235644077949816393/posts Gyi

    Consider responsive web design: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsive_Web_Design

    So far, this is my favorite way of coding a site for desktop, tablet and smartphone.

    It’s obviously not the only way, or the best way for all situations, but as a general rule for basic sites/blogs, you will be hard-pressed to beat it.

    I’ve modified the theme at http://gyitsakalakis.com to be responsive (very basic).

    I also recommend checking out http://www.stemlegal.com for a good example of a responsive design in action.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

      Cool stuff, Gyi. Does the concept work with WordPress themes?

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

    If your blog or website is on the WordPress platform, you can quickly make your site mobile friendly with the WP-Touch plugin – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

  • Gyi Tsakalakis

    UPDATE from Google: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/06/recommendations-for-building-smartphone.html

    Spoiler Alert:

    When building a website that targets smartphones, Google supports three different configurations:

    Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.